Memory Removal & PTSD

[ By on December 15, 2014 ]

Last January, MIT announced a research study published in the journal Cell that reported a way to erase traumatic memories in lab mice using a drug that makes the brain “more plastic, more capable of forming very strong new memories that will override the old fearful memories.” This study was aimed at providing a solution for those who struggle with PTSD. On the one hand, changing the fearful memories of those suffering from PTSD could be very helpful. However, on the other hand, what if removing one’s fearful memories alters their identity? Is it right to cure PTSD when it could alter one’s true self? We need to think of how memory functions in general. Our lives are influenced by the memories of our pasts. For example, one might be afraid of spiders because they had been bitten by one when they were a kid. Everything that happens in your lifetime makes you who you are. By taking someone’s memory away, even if it was painful, are we altering that person as well? It is questions such as these that we must take into account when assessing the morality of memory removal.

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2 Comments on “Memory Removal & PTSD”

  1. elenagolub

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ December 17, 2014 at 4:17 pm ]

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind!

    This is an interesting one to think about with the lens of scientific uncertainty. Imagine an experiment where we erase memories in one case but not another. What would the dependent variables be? How easy are those to measure accurately?

  2. elenagolub

    This is an interesting idea. PTSD is centered around the ability to cope with a traumatic experience. Often, many people experience symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks in response to trauma, but instead can learn from and move past these experiences without having PTSD. Does removing the memory also remove something important that can be learned from this experience? Or would this technology simply lessen the strong emotional attachment to these events which can trigger post-traumatic stress?

Hi Stranger, reply with your thoughts:

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